Type 2 Diabetes Remission Without Surgery Does Happen—But Very Rarely
What to Know
Diabetes can be controlled, but it can also go into remission, a state in which all signs and symptoms of diabetes disappear. "Partial remission" means your blood glucose levels have been lower than the range for diabetes for at least one year. "Complete remission" means your levels have been in the normal range for at least one year. And “Prolonged remission” means your levels have been in the normal range for at least five years. Most often, remissions occur after weight loss surgery. Rarely, though, remission has followed intensive lifestyle changes. This study looked at diabetes remission without weight loss surgery and the factors that make it more or less likely.
Researchers reviewed seven years of medical records of over 120,000 adults with type 2 diabetes. The people studied were similar to the general population in terms of racial and ethnic backgrounds and financial circumstances. None of them had had weight loss surgery. The researchers tallied those who had partial, complete, or prolonged remission based on their A1C levels (a test that shows glucose control during the previous two to three months). They then attempted to identify any specific traits that were more common in people who had a remission.
Overall, 1.6 percent of the entire group (4.6 percent of those who had been diagnosed for less than two years) had some sort of remission. Also, 1.47 percent had a partial remission, 0.14 percent had a complete remission, and 0.007 percent had a prolonged remission. People who were older than age 65, were African American, had been diagnosed for less than two years, had an A1C of less than 5.7 percent at the start of the study period, or were taking no diabetes medicines at the start of the study period were more likely to have a remission.
Type 2 diabetes remission can occur in people who have not had weight loss surgery, but it is very, very rare. This study suggests that that 384,000 people out the 25.6 million Americans with type 2 diabetes could have some type of remission in the next seven years. However, only 1,800 people would have a remission lasting at least five years. The data in this study came from routine clinical practice rather than from a research setting. Therefore, A1C testing did not take place at uniform times for all of the patients, which could have had an effect on the results.
Incidence of remission in adults with type 2 diabetes: the Diabetes & Aging Study, by Karter and colleagues. Diabetes Care 2014;37:3188–3195 https://doi.org/10.2337/dc14-0874